Remixed and remastered, satirical heavy metal band GWAR have made their return from the intergalactic world. The otherworldly group put on a performative, distinctive experience for their fans with a live stream show on Friday following the re-issue of the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Scumdogs of the Universe album. Released in 1990, Scumdogs is the groundbreaking conceptual record that secured GWAR a definitive spot as a pop culture commodity, separating the band from other metal albums of the early ’90s.
The first song of the show is the quick-tempo, record opener “The Salaminizer.” As the initial notes sound, band manager and quirky, comical host Sleazy P. Martini drags the “lucky contest winner” onstage, a figure in a Brockie t-shirt who gets his prop head cut off by lead singer Blothar the Berserker and guest backing vocalist Slymenstra Hymen. “Here’s a little something from a god to a slave/ I never should have been let out the fucking microwave!” Blothar chants as blood gushes about the stage. His voice is raspy and thicker in comparison with Oderus; nevertheless, the lead singer brings a hardcore energy to GWAR’s remixed sound.
Balsac The Jaws O’ Death, a day-one band member, demands mesmerized attention in “The Years Without Light,” an electric track that gives the audience a close-up view of the guitarist’s skilled hands gliding across the neck of his guitar. The track ends on its highest note before cutting off abruptly. Guest performer and long-time GWAR star Sexecutioner, a nearly-nude creature dressed in a black g-string and not much else, takes the stage for his spotlight moment, “Sexecutioner.” The song is over-the-top and filled with phrases that cleverly play off its title, such as, “Sexcellent!” “Sexcuse me?” and, “Sexecuting you!” Slymenstra aids with backing vocals, mimicking Sexecutioner’s lines across the bridge in a kinky, dramatized ensemble.
With each Scumdogs track a new character seems to appear out of thin air. Leading into “Black and Huge” is the Redneck from Hell, a comical character who taunts the band for all-American song covers. The Bad Biker Bitch, a nagging “groupie” who attempts to steal the spotlight more than once, gets her plastic chest sawed off by Balsac halfway through “Vlad The Impaler.” Blood spews across the stage out of the Bad Biker Bitch, whose downfall adds to the hilarity of the performance.
A big vaccine prop is brought onstage by Sexecutioner for “Death Pod,” an intimidating song with a rocky baseline and hard, head-banging drums from Jizmak Da Gusha, who makes the instrument look effortless. “Maggots” is a thrash metal song with high-tempo beats echoing off the phrase, “Maggots! Maggots!/ Maggots are falling like rain!” Enter Slymenstra, with her hollow, echoed backing vocals that add a sense of depth and a siren-like howling to the song. Balsac and guitarist Pustulus Maximus stand side-by-side on a raised platform for dueling solos, sewing up the track with a speedy outro. The two-chord ending is played live in addition to the remixed track on the album.
“Love Surgery” is intimidating and forceful. Blothar’s masked face peers out at the audience behind his pig snout and glaring yellow eyes. The drums and bass take over in this one, with Blothar’s vocals lower than the original Scumdogs recording. “Horror of Yig” stands alone in comparison with the style of the record. The outro guitar solo is high, with a bluesy, bouncy guitar riff and celtic music as the intro and outro; the track is quirky and eccentric. Slymenstra Hymen is the real fixation of the performance as she stands onstage yelling flame throwers, setting a fire pit ablaze.
Blothar dedicates “King Queen” to the man who first stood in his place, “the great Oderus Urungus!” And, a fan-demand closer at GWAR shows, “Sick of You” is the rock ‘n’ roll rhythm and sound that brings Scumdogs full-circle; the guitars’ bridge fades out and in, differing from the original, less dynamic recording. Blothar’s voice drastically fluctuates for this track as he switches between his natural rasp and a nasally, clear tone that chants, “I’m sick of your voice/ Sick of your face/ Sick of your choices/ Sick of your name.”
A GWAR show isn’t a GWAR experience without an onstage battle between the band and their nemeses, the Destructos. Sawborg and Bozo Destructo make a fiery albeit aggravating duo in “The Private Pain of Sawborg and Bozo Destructo,” while the supreme Techno Destructo takes on, “The Private Pain of Techno Destructo” on his lonesome. All Destructos end up nearly naked and bloodied by the end of the tracks, however, as GWAR remains eternally powerful over the forces set against them.
With the demand of an encore, the band returns to perform “U Ain’t Shit” and “Cool Place to Park,” two fast-paced, zestful tracks that feel ahead of their birth in the early ’90s. The final song of the show is performed by the kinky, warped Sleazy P. Martini. “Slaughterama” is a comical act that attacks the existence of happies, Joan Rivers and Nazi Skinheads alike. “We’ve killed everybody worth killing!” Sleazy P. Martini announces while the band cheers, proud to have achieved their ultimate goal.
The stage is left burnt and bloodied, with no object left unbroken or undone. If there’s one thing GWAR has mastered, it’s a knack for leaving their mark. After over 30 years of GWAR, the band is as transcendent as ever. A record intended to be more than just listened to, Scumdogs of the Universe takes fans to a desired reality beyond the scope of life as people know it. Though the band members may differ from the original lineup of the ’90s, especially after losing lead singer Oderus Urungus to an overdose in recent years, the re-issue of Scumdogs of the Universe is flawlessly remastered and a finite testament to GWAR’s legacy.
The Years Without Light
Horror of Yig
Sick of You
The Private Pain of Sawborg and Bozo Destructo
The Private Pain of Techno Destructo
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna